Clay’s second cousin hiked the trail from the band office, where he had to deal with some kind of bureaucratic red tape and bull over his white girlfriend living on the reserve without band permission, even if she lived in town weekdays, when she wasn’t flying to reservations north of Sioux Lookout, where she worked as a social worker with the First Nations social services agency. After he cursed Clay and blamed him for letting his leg hold traps sit to rust in the shed, when he asked him to oil them, and showed him his broken leg was healing slowly from the snowmobile accident he had while ice fishing on Lac Seul, he said Clay inherited a condo in Toronto from his nephew. In disbelief and distraction, Clay returned to reading the Reader’s Digest large print condensed book, Gone with the Wind, beside the dim light from the lantern.
Then, at the reservation gas station and convenience store, Clay thought he was starting to go completely deaf, but, over the din and noise of the announcer shouting excitedly during the live telecast of the playoff hockey game, from the television on the refrigerator beside the microwave oven, the lawyer confirmed the bequest in a long distance telephone call. Clay still didn’t believe his nephew had left him a condominium; the nature of the accommodation was ultramodern, exotic, to him; the location was foreign, faraway. Later, the chief explained to him at the reservation band office a condo or condominium was a fancy city name for an apartment. His nephew, a lawyer, specializing in law for indigenous people, was killed in a fiery car crash on Highway 401, after he drove from the Six Nations reserve to help negotiate settlements for residential school and Sixties Scoop claims.
His nephew’s lawyer partner said Nodin had no other living relatives he held in high esteem, aside from his uncle Clay, who he remembered fondly. Nodin remembered the times Clay insisted on taking him on his snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, and dog sled along the trails through the bush around Lac Seul and patiently taught him hunting, fishing, and trapping skills on the bush and lake around Tobacco Lodge reserve and the surrounding waterways, which, after the construction of the hydroelectric dam at Ears Falls, one could argue, turned into a reservoir. His nephew especially loved the skills he learned snowshoeing through the bush, along the lakeshore, and across the lakes, and fur trapping, ice fishing for walleye and lake trout, commercial fishing whitefish, setting snares and leg hold traps on the trap line in the snowy bush for snowshoe hare, fox, lynx muskrat, beaver, mink, marten, fisher, and wolves.
Nodin also respected the fact Clay never smoked or drank, or took advantage of women, or friends, or, for that matter, judged him. The lawyer called him several more times long distance. Again, he had to snowmobile or snowshoe to the reservation convenience store to use the payphone or hike to the reservation band office to borrow their landline to listen to the lawyer explain he should simply sell the condominium. The apartment was probably worth a million dollars. The lawyer, his nephew’s partner, reassured him he would help him invest the funds, purchase an annuity, set up an investment portfolio of income earning stocks and bonds, or set up a trust fund, which would provide him with a pension or monthly income.
The chief agreed with the Toronto lawyer he should sell the condo. The chief claimed he had gotten too used to, too acclimatized, to life on the reservation, and the culture shock of Toronto might kill him. She said he’d hate life in the city, especially a big city like Toronto, since he better appreciated the traditional way of life on the reserve and the surrounding nature.
Clay never liked the chief much and was mystified by her claim to speak for him. Who said he hated life in the city? He demanded. He never said he didn’t like life in the city, or preferred living in Sioux Lookout or Tobacco Lodge to the city of Toronto. He was seventy years old, and, in his mind, he felt fit and well, but he was afflicted with old age conditions like arthritis. He was suffering from gout and ankylosing spondylitis, and, short of breath, he worried about the effects of heart disease. He didn’t feel like he was in any physical or psychological condition to hunt and fish, and he was actually tired of living on the reserve. At his age, seventy, he felt like he could no longer tolerate the cold to snowshoe the trap line, or even fish or guide tourist for walleye, musky, or northern pike on Lac Seul, or hunt for moose, whitetail deer or ruffed grouse. The chief was incredulous and so was his nephew’s lawyer, both of whom continued to try to persuade him to sell the condo. Exasperated and frustrated, they raised their voices and gesticulated, as they tried to persuade him to sell the condominium, but he couldn’t possibly think of what he could do with a million dollars.
“It’s a million dollars before taxes, but after taxes and fees,” the lawyer said, starting to sound officious, like an accountant, “the bequest will be far less.”
Even after taxes, the chief said, how could he possibly spend a million dollars when he lived on a reservation like Tobacco Lodge, if he didn’t smoke, or drink, or chase women. If he lived in the city of Toronto, though, Clay argued, he would be close to medical specialists like rheumatologists and cardiologists, who would be able to help him with the aches and inflammation of his rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis and the shortness of breath and chest pains associated with angina pectoris. He didn’t really have any close friends or relatives on the reserve, or even in the town of Sioux Lookout, nearby, anyway. He always enjoyed his visits to the city of Toronto and staying with his nephew. He liked visiting the gay bars and strip clubs, and he especially loved the coffee in the exotic variety of cafes, full-bodied, strong flavoured, not water downed or diluted like in the local café, in Sioux Lookout. At the Roundhouse Café in Sioux Lookout, if you lingered a little too long, or said the wrong thing, or talked a little too loud, or didn’t smell like eau de cologne, the owner, who hovered above customers like a stage mom, might kick you out and ban you.